ISBE Adopts Its “Every Student Succeeds” Plan to Qualify for Federal Education Funding

SPRINGFIELD – On Wednesday, the Illinois State Board of Education’s adopted a new plan that the US Department of Education’s been urging to replace the previous “No Child Left Behind” plan from the Bush years, and one that had to be passed for Illinois to qualify for additional Federal education funding.

The new plan to point the way for student achievement at all schools, is referred to as ESSA, or “Every Student Succeeds Act.”   The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on Dec. 10, 2015. Every state was required to put forth a plan as to how it would implement the program’s objectives and how the state will hold schools accountable for student achievement, in return for Federal dollars.

The US Department of Education says a key provision of ESSA, is that it requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.

And as an aim of lifting student achievement in those schools with traditionally low test scores, the US Dept of Education website says there will be “an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.”

In FY 2016, Illinois received $662,713,846 to support low-income students and schools. But Educators have long complained however that Federal funds came with too many strings attached that hampered the efforts of school managers to apply funds where they were most needed, and instead directed funds be spent according to the dictates of Washington.

As one Illinois school administrator told the Illinois Channel, “Federal funding accounts for about 3% of our budget and about 95% of our headaches.”

Now one of the key provisions of the ESSA law, is that school districts will have more flexibility to utilize Title I funds, as the districts see the fit. Instead of a “one size fits all” application of funds, the district administrators will have greater leeway to apply federal funds in those areas where the district feels will result having the greatest impact on student achievement.

The complaint that Federal dollars under the “No Child Left Behind” act, were too restrictive was a common theme among American educators.  As a response, the Obama administration in 2012, began granting greater flexibility to states regarding specific requirements of NCLB. But to have that flexibility, the US Department of Education required rigorous and comprehensive plans that would be designed by each state, with the goal of closing achievement gaps, increase equity, improve the quality of instruction, and increase outcomes for all students.

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The Illinois State Board of Education has been working on Illinois’ version of its ESSA plan over a year, which included holding hearings around the state for input from various education organizations.

In response to the State Board of Education approving Illinois’ plan, Gov Rauner issued the following statement of support for the Board’s actions.

“This is an historic day for Illinois schools. One of our Administration’s top priorities has been to implement a rigorous accountability system and a robust support system for our schools to ensure that children in every neighborhood and community have access to a high-quality education. The Every Student Succeeds Act gives us an opportunity to do just that.

“Our state implementation plan will guarantee that parents across Illinois can clearly see whether local schools are meeting the needs of their children. Through a clear and concise ratings system based primarily on student growth, teachers and administrators will understand where they’re succeeding and what needs improvement. At the same time, the plan’s early childhood, arts, and other indicators will ensure that Illinois continues innovating to support the whole child.”

The state’s plan must now be approved by the US Department of Education.